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  1. 1. Issues in Social and Environmental AccountingVol. 1, No. 1 June 2007Pp. 160-164 A Commentary on CSR Alistair M. Brown School of Accounting Curtin University of Technology, AustraliaCorporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Foundation (EJF, 2005), Friends of theis lauded by well-intentioned CSR inter- Earth (FOE, 2007), Global Witnessest groups1 but has been mocked by big (Global Witness, 2004; 2006), Greencorporations such as British American Alliance (Green Alliance, 2007), Green-Tobacco, Coca-Cola and Shell where peace (Greenpeace, 2002a; 2002b; 2004;bad business behaviour persists despite 2006), IFAW (IFAW, 1999) and Inter-assurances of best CSR practices national Alert (International Alert, 2005)(Amnesty International, 2007; Christian are awash with the recent failings ofAid, 2004; Other Shell Report, 2003). CSR and the way companies, individu- ally and collectively, use and abuse CSRThe sites of Amnesty International to further company ends.(Amnesty International, 2007), CatholicAgency for Overseas Development Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)(CAFOD, 2007), Centre for Corporate fails because it does not make compa-Accountability (CCA, 2007), Christian nies keep their promises and ignoresAid (2004), Corporate Responsibility problems by allowing company reports(Core Responsibility, 2007), Corporate to gloss over core business impactsWatch (2006), Environmental Justice (FOE, 2007). Its voluntary approach ren- ders CSR useless in enforcing signed-up principles, while at the same placing1 See for example the Equator Principles (2007), the legal frameworks for international tradeGlobal Sullivan Principles (1977), OECD’s (2007) and investment (Doane & Holder, 2007).Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, UN’s At best, companies implementation of(2007), Business for Social Responsibility (BSR,2007), World Business Council for Sustainable Devel- CSR is fragmented and shallow (Worldopment (WBCSD, 2007), Instituto Ethos (2007), Bank, 2007); at worst, CSR is ignored orCentre for Social Markets (2007) African Institute ofCorporate Citizenship (2007), International Business used to emote about the wretchedness ofLeaders Forum (2007), SustainAbility (2007), Eth- the earth without really changing corpo-ics Officer Association (2007) rate practices.Alistair M. Brown is Associate Professor, Governance & Corporate Social Responsibility Research, School of Ac-counting, Curtin University of Technology, Australia, email: Alistair.Brown@cbs.curtin.edu.au
  2. 2. A. M. Brown / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 1 (2007) 160-164 161Accounting has always managed to ones – and Index, suggesting technicaltrample over public domains and con- proficiency, renders the term an unam-struct them into new ways of being – biguous and authoritative reality of sus-health (Llewellyn & Northcott, 2005; tainability, rather than a highly con-Samuel, Dirsmith & McElroy, 2005) and structed one based on a core-financialwar (Chwastiak, 2006), for example - self-interests.and CSR is no exception. The guru-esque Balanced Scorecard (Nørreklit, Indeed, the DJSI manages to express2003), lapidary Global Reporting Initia- sustainability as a corporate possessivetive (GRI, 2006), technically bound ‘corporate sustainability’ which in turnAA1000 Framework (AccountAbility, is defined as ‘a business approach that1999a) and AA1000 Assurance creates long-term shareholder value’.(AccountAbility, 1999b), and bureau- This, of course, falls wide of the inter-cratic ISO certification (ISO, 2007) and pretations of either the Bruntland Com-Social Accountability International pro- mission -“to meet the needs of the pre-gram SA 8000 (SAI, 2007) are symbolic sent without compromising the ability ofof the way accounting popularized con- future generations to meet their ownceptions of CSR as professional artifacts needs” (Bruntland, 1987) or that of thethat allow regulators, governments and World Conservation Union, United Na-accounting standard boards to shirk their tions Environment Programme andresponsibility from legislating on CSR. World Wide Fund for Nature - "improving the quality of human lifeOne of the foulest examples of account- while living within the carrying capacitying’s complicity in constructing CSR as of supporting eco-systems" (IUCN,professional artifact must surely be the 1991). Moreover, it allows the Dowegregious Dow Jones Sustainability In- Jones to engineer a defined set of criteriadex (DJSI) which claims to measure and weightings that makes its financially‘objectively’ an index of corporate sus- loaded index look like a natural meas-tainability. The conflation of Dow Jones, urement of sustainability. Thus, dataa symbol of American market capital- proficiency is ritualised by summoningism, Sustainability, a term to do with up both the preposterously constructedfuture needs – not just market capital Laspeyres formula2 (DJSI, p. 33) and the elevated PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Re- view which both suggest an unproblem-2 One illustration of the absurdity of this formula is the atic and authoritative stream of calcula-placement of the different weightings given to thesub-categories (‘criteria’) of ‘economic’, tion of sustainability.‘environment’ and ‘social’ sustainability categories(or ‘dimensions’). For example, the environmental CSR claims to speak for the next genera-sub-category of Environmental Reporting is given aweight of 3.0% while the social sub-category Talent tion of people but is informed andAttraction & Retention is given 5.5%; the economic guided by powerful financial instru-sub-category of Risks & Crisis Management is given ments like the DJSI. Accounting aca-6.0% while the social sub-category of Social Report-ing is given 3.0%. Quite why Talent Attraction & demics and environmental and socialRetention is worth double the weight of Environ- special interest groups may agonise overmental Reporting or Social Reporting is not explicatedbut clearly, the picture of sustainability that the the pros and cons of CSR but when ac-Laspeyres formula wishes to show might politely be countants wittingly and unwittinglydescribed as Dow Jones-esque. drum up artefacts of nonsense for corpo-
  3. 3. 162 A. M. Brown / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 1 (2007) 160-164rate gargantuans, like the Dow Jones and rate Accountability”, http://their rich clientele, then it is time to drop www.corporateaccontability.org/CSR from our vocabulary. What is international/deaths/tables/really needed from those interested in summary/main.htmsocial and environmental reform is the Centre for Social Markets (2007)exertion of pressure on both the Interna- www.csmworld.orgtional Accounting Standards Board, Christian Aid (2004) “Behind the mask:which has yet to come up with interna- the real face of corporate socialtional stand-alone environmental or so- responsibility”, http://cial standard (Porter et al., 2006), and www.christian-aid.org.uk/first world national governments, which i n d e p t h / 0 4 0 1 c s r /sanctify constructions like the Dow csr_behindthemask.pdfJones Sustainability Index, to come up Chwastiak, M. (2007) “Rationality, per-with regulations and laws to stop compa- formance measures and represen-nies harming the planet and its people. tations of reality: planning, pro- gramming and budgeting and the Vietnam war”, Critical Perspec-References tives on Accounting, Vol. 17, pp. 29-55.AccountAbility (1999a) AA1000 Frame- Corporate Responsibility (2007) “Why work Corporate Social Responsibility is__________(1999b) AA1000 Assurance Failing Children”, http://African Institute of Corporate Citizen- www.corporate-responsibility.org/ ship (2007) www.aiccafrica.org m o d u l e _ i m a g e s /Amnesty International (2007) Corporate WhySCRpagesHR.pdf Social Responsibility: Human Corporate Watch (2006) What’s Wrong Rights for All People for All With Corporate Social Responsi- Times, http://news.amnesty.org/ bility?, Corporate Watch, Oxford, pages/csr pp. 1-28.Bruntland Commission (1987) World Doane, D. & Holder, A. (2007) “Why Commission on Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility is Development. Our Common Fu- Failing Children, Save the Chil- ture. (Oxford, Great Britain: Ox- dren and The Corporate Responsi- ford University Press, p. 8. bility (CORE) Coalition”, Lon-Business for Social Responsibility don, http://www.corporate- (2007) www.bsr.org responsibility.org/CAFOD (2007) Corporate Responsibil- m o d u l e _ i m a g e s / ity, Catholic Agency for Overseas WhyCSRpagesHR.pdf Development,http:// DJSI (2007) Dow Jones Sustainability www.cafod.org.uk/about_cafod/ Indexes, www.sustainability- w h a t _ w e _ d o / indexes.com) corporate_responsibility EJF (2005) Impact Report: ProtectingCCA (2007) “Promoting Worker and People and Planet 2004-2005, Public Safety: Number of work- Environmental Justice Foundation ers who died in different regions http://www.ejfoundation.org/pdf/ of the world, Centre for Corpo- impact_report_04-05.pdf
  4. 4. A. M. Brown / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 1 (2007) 160-164 163Equator Principles (2007) www.equator- news/investment-firms-tell-dow- principles.com to-i#Ethics Officer Association (2007) _________ (2004) Exxon Valdez disas- www.eoa.org/home.asp ter – an ongoing history of lies,FOE (2007) Corporate Social Responsi- h t t p: / / w w w . gr e e np e a c e . o r g/ bility: Friends of the Earth, http:// i nt er na ti onal / pr e s s/ r ele a s e s/ www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/ exxon-valdez-disaster-an-ongo# c or p or a t e s / i s s ue s / c o ve r _ u p/ _________ (2006) Greenpeace Re- index.html sponse to Kimberley-ClarkFTSE (2007). FTSE4Good, C l a i m s , h t t p : / / www.ftse.com/ftse4good/ www.greenpeace.org/ index.jsp international/news/kc-responseGlobal Reporting Initiative (GRI, 2006) IFAW (1999) IFAW Releases Hard- www.globalreporting.org hitting Ad Against Mitsubishi,Global Witness (2004). Angola Trans- http://www.ifaw/general/ parency Move Welcomes But Se- default.aspx?oid=67278 rious Questions Remain, http:// Instituto Ethos (2007), www.globalwitness.org/ www.ethos.org.br media_library_detail.php/331/en/ International Alert (2005) Peace through angola_transparency_move_ wel- profits: Sri Lankan perspectives comes_but_serious_questions_re on Corporate Social Responsibil- mains ity, International Alert, London,_________ (2006) Global Witness Sub- 1-149. mission to the ICJ Expert Legal International Business Leaders Forum Panel on Corporate Complicity in (2007): www.iblf.org International Crimes, http:// ISO (2007) International Organization www.globalwitness.org/ for Standardization, www.iso.org media_library_detail.php/502/en/ IUCN (1991) Caring for the Earth: A expert_legal_panel_ Strategy for Sustainable Living, on_corporate_complicity_in_inter The World Conservation Union, national _crimes United Nations Environment Pro-Green Alliance (2007) The Green Stan- gramme (UNEP), World Wide dard: Tests for Environmental Fund for Nature (WWF), Gland, Leadership http://www.green- Switzerland. a l l i a n c e . o r g. u k/ gr e a 1 . a s p x ? Llewellyn, S. & Northcott, D. (2005) id=1326 “The Average Hospital, Account-Greenpeace (2002a) Who really rules ing”, Organizations and Society, our world? http:// Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 555-583. www.greenpeace.org/ OECD (2007) Guidelines for Multina- international/news/who-really- tional Enterprises, Organization rules-our-planet# for Economic Cooperation and________ (2002b) Investment firms tell Development, www.oecd.org Dow to invest in Bhopal clean up Global Sullivan Principles (2007) Greenpeace (2002a) http:// www.globalsullianprinciples.org www.grenpeace.org/international/ Nørreklit, H. (2003) “The Balanced Scorecard: what is the score? A
  5. 5. 164 A. M. Brown / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 1 (2007) 160-164 rhetorical analysis of the Balanced Samuel, S., Dirsmith, M. W. & Scorecard”, Account- McElroy, B. (2005) “Monetized ing,Organizations and Society, medicine: from the physical to the Vol. 28, pp. 591–619 fiscal”, Acccounting, Organiza-Porter, S., Brown, A. M., Purushotha- tions and Society, Vol. 30, Issue man, M. & Scharl, A. (2006) “The 3, pp. 249-278. Strategies of the IASB and its SustainAbility (2007) Funders”, Journal of Strategic www.sustainability.com Change, Vol. 15, No. 6, pp. 305- UN (2007) Global Compact, 317. www.unglobalcompact.orgSAI (2007) Social Accountability Inter- WBCSD (2007). World Business Coun- national, www.sa-intl.org cil for Sustainable Development, www.wbcsd.ch
  6. 6. International Journals Call for PaperThe IISTE, a U.S. publisher, is currently hosting the academic journals listed below. The peer review process of the following journalsusually takes LESS THAN 14 business days and IISTE usually publishes a qualified article within 30 days. Authors shouldsend their full paper to the following email address. More information can be found in the IISTE website : www.iiste.orgBusiness, Economics, Finance and Management PAPER SUBMISSION EMAILEuropean Journal of Business and Management EJBM@iiste.orgResearch Journal of Finance and Accounting RJFA@iiste.orgJournal of Economics and Sustainable Development JESD@iiste.orgInformation and Knowledge Management IKM@iiste.orgDeveloping Country Studies DCS@iiste.orgIndustrial Engineering Letters IEL@iiste.orgPhysical Sciences, Mathematics and Chemistry PAPER SUBMISSION EMAILJournal of Natural Sciences Research JNSR@iiste.orgChemistry and Materials Research CMR@iiste.orgMathematical Theory and Modeling MTM@iiste.orgAdvances in Physics Theories and Applications APTA@iiste.orgChemical and Process Engineering Research CPER@iiste.orgEngineering, Technology and Systems PAPER SUBMISSION EMAILComputer Engineering and Intelligent Systems CEIS@iiste.orgInnovative Systems Design and Engineering ISDE@iiste.orgJournal of Energy Technologies and Policy JETP@iiste.orgInformation and Knowledge Management IKM@iiste.orgControl Theory and Informatics CTI@iiste.orgJournal of Information Engineering and Applications JIEA@iiste.orgIndustrial Engineering Letters IEL@iiste.orgNetwork and Complex Systems NCS@iiste.orgEnvironment, Civil, Materials Sciences PAPER SUBMISSION EMAILJournal of Environment and Earth Science JEES@iiste.orgCivil and Environmental Research CER@iiste.orgJournal of Natural Sciences Research JNSR@iiste.orgCivil and Environmental Research CER@iiste.orgLife Science, Food and Medical Sciences PAPER SUBMISSION EMAILJournal of Natural Sciences Research JNSR@iiste.orgJournal of Biology, Agriculture and Healthcare JBAH@iiste.orgFood Science and Quality Management FSQM@iiste.orgChemistry and Materials Research CMR@iiste.orgEducation, and other Social Sciences PAPER SUBMISSION EMAILJournal of Education and Practice JEP@iiste.orgJournal of Law, Policy and Globalization JLPG@iiste.org Global knowledge sharing:New Media and Mass Communication NMMC@iiste.org EBSCO, Index Copernicus, UlrichsJournal of Energy Technologies and Policy JETP@iiste.org Periodicals Directory, JournalTOCS, PKPHistorical Research Letter HRL@iiste.org Open Archives Harvester, Bielefeld Academic Search Engine, ElektronischePublic Policy and Administration Research PPAR@iiste.org Zeitschriftenbibliothek EZB, Open J-Gate,International Affairs and Global Strategy IAGS@iiste.org OCLC WorldCat, Universe Digtial Library ,Research on Humanities and Social Sciences RHSS@iiste.org NewJour, Google Scholar.Developing Country Studies DCS@iiste.org IISTE is member of CrossRef. All journalsArts and Design Studies ADS@iiste.org have high IC Impact Factor Values (ICV).